Saturday, April 6, 2013

12 Million Americans Believe Lizard People Run Our Country (and 276 Million Don’t)

On April 2nd, at the Atlantic, Philip Bump used the startling headline 12 Million Americans Believe Lizard People Run Our Country to discuss the survey on conspiracy theories released that day by Public Policy Polling. Out of their twenty conspiracies, Q13 had the lowest percentage of people who believed. But Philip multiplied that percentage by an estimate for the US population (313,914,040) to produce a surprisingly large number - until you compare it with the number that don’t believe in that theory.

He noted that the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent. But, then his article showed a table with the theories ranked from most to least believed, and three columns listing the Conspiracy, Percent Believing, and Number of Americans Believing. For that third column he didn’t use units of millions like in his headline. Instead he listed eight or nine digit numbers (like 12,566,562  for the lizard people), which is a ludicrously phony level of precision.  

The eight-column table shown above (click on it for a larger version) gives a more balanced view for the top ten conspiracy theories. I’m still somewhat amazed that more people than not believed in a Kennedy assassination conspiracy. But for the other nineteen more people didn’t believe than did.

By the way, the Public Policy Polling survey was of registered voters rather than the total population. For 2010 the Census Bureau estimated there were 229.7 million in the voting age population, and 59.8 percent were registered, so there were just 137 million registered voters rather than the 313 million total population. 

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